Nepal parliament reconvenes

Nepal's parliament has reconvened for the first time in four years, with a pledge to elect a new assembly to re-write the country's constitution.

    Koirala is set to become prime minister for the fifth time

    Chitra Lekha Yadav, the acting speaker, said on Friday: "We express our gratitude to those who died in the democracy struggle."

    A minute's silence was also held for at least 13 people who died in three weeks of protest against direct rule by King Gyanendra.

    Yadav was standing in for Girija Prasad Koirala, the 84-year-old prime minister-designate, who had to postpone his swearing-in ceremony because of ill health.

    "It's important to publicise the decision to hold elections to the constituent assembly by holding discussions in parliament," she added. 

    The sitting was adjourned until Sunday after a 35-minute session.

    Activists

    Outside, thousands of activists filled the streets, demanding legislators keep their promise to re-write the constitution.

    "This revolution is an appeal to the people all over the world to ... defeat autocracy"

    Maoist statement

    "These men have to change our laws ... to make sure we are safe in our democracy," said Gopal Tiwari, a 22-year-old student.

    "We are the reason they are on this day sitting in parliament."

    Maoist forces, who have fought a decade-long insurgency, have announced a three-month ceasefire to give the political parties a chance to bring calm to the troubled Himalayan kingdom.

    In a Maoist statement distributed to crowds of pro-democracy activists, their leader Prachanda praised the protests that led to the king handing over power to elected politicians.

    "This revolution is an appeal to the people all over the world to ... defeat autocracy," the statement said.

    Improvement

    Krishna Prasad Situala, a spokesman for the Nepal Congress party, said Koirala had been put on oxygen and a saline drip for an unspecified lung and rib problem on Thursday and was being seen by doctors again on Friday.

    "There is a gradual improvement in his health," he said.

    Gyanendra formally appointed Koirala as prime minister late on Thursday as he handed control to political parties after weeks of protests against 14 months of absolute rule.

    The parliament was dissolved when Gyanendra seized absolute power for himself in February 2005, purportedly to quell the Maoist revolt.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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